Bidding to end a decade-long major title drought in the arena of China's women's figure skating, three local teenagers are now training in the US with the coach of retired world champion Chen Lu to try and replicate some of her record-breaking success.
Geng Bingwa, 14, Zhang Kexin, 12 and Li Zijun, 11, were selected by star coach Li Mingzhu to train under her at Eastwest Ice Palace last month. They now carry the burden of rejuvenating China's chances at the top end of the sport.
The competitiveness of Chinese skaters in the women's single category has dipped in recent years and "there are few skaters of a suitable age to make a dent at the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Games, so we have selected younger ones who can produce good results at the 2014 Games," said Yang Dong, director of the Figure Skating Department at China's Winter Sports Administrative Center.
"Coach Li is very familiar with our training style and she has a lot of experience of working in the US. So we have invited her to help China again," he added.
Li helped build Chen into the country's first Olympic figure skating medalist (bronze medals in 1994, 1998) and world champion (1995).
After she concluded their 15-year partnership, Li relocated to the US in 1997 and can now add rising star Caroline Zhang to her list of success stories.
Li said her three latest wards have the potential to scale the pinnacles of the sport.
"They have been training here for about three weeks, and they are working very hard," Li said in a telephone interview.
"Training overseas is an opportunity for them as well as a great challenge, since the conditions here are totally different. I hope they can benefit as much as possible from this."
The three skaters will return to China to see how they have improved at the National Games in April, said Yang.
China began inviting foreign choreographers years ago to work with top pairs like Pang Qing/Tong Jian and Zhang Dan/Zhang Hao but this is the first time it has dispatched its young skaters overseas for training.
"Figure skating has become increasingly internationalized and we also plan on following this trend," said Yang.
"The training systems of powerhouses like the US, Japan and Russia are tried-and-tested success stories so if our cooperation with Li goes as planned we may pursue similar ventures with our male skaters."